I’ve just started cycling to work again after a very long break, and it’s tough. It’s a thirty minute cycle into work and a fourty minute cycle back. I know, you’re asking about that extra ten minutes…well it’s downhill one way, and not the other! For the most part it’s a really pleasant cycle in, alongside the canal with plenty of greenary, some families of ducks and geese, and no cars. We’ll come back to those in part II. However there is one annoying thing throughout the cycle, other cyclists.
I used to cycle on roads everywhere, and when I wasn’t on the roads it was cross country, so I was very used to the fact that cycle couriers and the majority of other cyclists I saw would jump red lights, cycle through green men and pretend to be pedestrians. What they never were, were road users.
It really infuriated me because I would follow the Highway Code as I was legally obliged to for protection of myself, the pedestrians and other road users. It also would help if there was an accident, any personal insurance or liability insurance would help me out, whereas if I’d jumped a light it would be a case of tough luck.
It was hard enough trying to stay on the road without falling over the gazillions of potholes on the road, never mind contend with the car drivers whose view of the average, careful road cyclist is stained by these couriers and arrogant cyclists.
To a degree I can understand the couriers, I mean it’s their job to get somewhere fast, and things like public relations and presenting a good image is far from their mind, they just need to get where they’re going and make some money fast. To the company they work for they are totally expendable. They have to be fast, and that’s that. If they’re hurt or dead, the company can get someone else to replace them, what do they care?
However, when it comes to the average commuter or pleasure cyclist, what the hell are they doing racing through red lights, mounting pavements, scaring pedestrians, cutting up cars. It’s not only themselves they could affect but their family (they could be sued for damages from an accident of their cause, or worse still, seriously injured or killed), then there’s the other people they could injure or just scare. It’s a crazy risk to be taking with their own life, but at least that’s their choice, but then there’s the other road users they have to think about.
Then there’s the affect these cyclists have on the law abiding, respectful cyclists like myself. I keep my road vehicle on the road, I obey traffic laws and I am overly respectful of pedestrians, particularly on the canal path, and these cyclists are just causing me to be branded with the same bad reputation that they have. Just because I am a cyclist does not mean I am one of thise who couldn’t care about other road users or their own life, yet I can wholly understand pedestrians and road users feeling that I’m just another mad cyclist on the road.
So it becomes difficult for me when other road users and pedestrians treat me with disdain, sure I’ll have a go back, but I understand why they may feel like that and it’s the ignorant, illegal cyclists that cause that feeling.
Now that I’m mainly on the canal cycle path to and from work I begin to see an even worse side to the cyclists, when they don’t care about people out walking on the path. Here’s a thing to remember straight up, on a non dedicated cycle path pedestrians have the more rights, in an accident it’s the cyclist that will be looked on poorly not the pedestrian, much like an incident between a bike and car.
So when I’m cycling to work by the canal I’m amazed at the irresponsibility of the cyclists. Out of the two weeks of runs I’ve made, I’ve only seen two cyclists actually dismount and walk along the bridge where the large black and white signs read:
Cyclists. Please dismount across this bridge. or words to that effect. Just two. All the others cycle across it, regardless of other bridge users, and let me tell you there’s just enough room for me to stand, lift my bike onto it’s back wheel and push it ahead into the barrier, and let someone walk round the outside, never mind cycling along beside them. Think of how they feel being pushed to the side as a cyclist comes by, especially if they have a dog with them.
I’ve mentioned to a few of these cyclists that they should be dismounting to cross, and what do you think they’re reply was? To use the phrase of one older lady
No one else does! Oh well, there you go then. If everyone you see starts speeding in their cars would you? If everyone you see starts smoking crack, would you? The sign is not there for the other cyclists, it’s there for you as an individual to get off your bike and take care for other pedestrians. It’s not to make sure you’re in with the in crowd, it’s to protect others.
Then, before this group of cyclists leaps up in arms, there are the bell ringers. If you’ve ever been on a stretch of the canal you’ll probably have met one. They nicely ting their bell before overtaking someone from behind, or before pulling round a blind corner. Wonderfully caring aren’t they? Wrong. Have you actually stopped to watch what they do?
On a corner you’ll see them race towards it at their normal speed and then ting their bell a few times taking the blind corner at the same speed. Much the same procedure for when they are passing someone, a quick ting and a race past mean that no one will get a fright and everything will be fine. Let’s not consider the option of headphones on the pedestrian for the moment, what about just slowing down and carefully going by them? What about slowing down for the corner, going wide, and looking round the corner before taking it?
When I come up to a blind corner that’s exactly what I do, I slow down and cycle wide, looking round the corner before accelerating off, if it’s clear. If it’s not I’ll stay dead slow and let people walk or cycle by me. What I don’t do is head into the corner ringing an inane bell and not giving an inch just expecting people to move out of my way, be they pedestrians, runners, cyclists or even animals.
If I’m passing a pedestrian from behind what I’ve started doing is using the amazing power of speech I’ve been given, a nicely placed “excuse me” followed by a “thank you” helps wonders, not some faceless irritating bell. Plus I’ll slow right down to pass them, particularly if they have an animal with them, poor dog doesn’t understand what’s going on when a bell rings.
Just recently I didn’t say anything as I passed a couple, however someone had just run through in front of me and I slowed to the pace of a jogger, went really wide and passed them in the huge space they had made for the previous person. They shouted at me for passing them, well I was dumbfounded. Sure I hadn’t spoken to them as I passed but I was the same width as a runner, and was following one, plus I was going at a very slow jogging pace. It shows you the negative attitude people have for cyclists, they never shouted at the jogger. It probably would have made a huge difference if I’d used the “excuse me \ thank you” approach, but it does show that people have that bad view of all cyclists, perpetuated by those who care little for pedestrians or other road users.
Have respect, care and patience, and ditch the bell and engage people with a friendly and curteous attitude. Too much to hope for? Well I’m not changing the world here, I’m just abiding by the law and making sure I take care for other pedestrians, it’s the other cyclists that give us a bad name.